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We’ve had a few glimpses of the sun lately and it has us excited to start planning spring and summer sewing projects. This fast and easy pillow is perfect for the outdoor fabrics beginning to make their appearance in stores and online. Our cute criss-cross lacing along the front closure has a fun nautical spin. 

We used an outdoor fabric in a bold stripe to match our nautical theme, cutting the stripes both vertically and horizontally for extra interest. Stripes are a perennial favorite from several outdoor fabric manufacturers and can be found in a great range of colors to best match your outdoor living space.

You can of course use other fabric, although a lighter-weight fabric would require interfacing in order to keep the folds of the lacing panels crisp and sharp. If you want your pillow to live outside, we also suggest looking for a pillow insert that is designed for outdoor use. That said, although it could certainly handle some sprinkles, this pillow is not designed to hold up to drenching rains.

The lacing panels are created with clever folded facings. This allows a double thickness to best seat the rows of grommets while still providing a right-side-up background behind the grommets so there’s no show through to the pillow insert.

Soft cording was our choice for the lacing. Its texture fit the nautical theme and we knew it would be easy to untie and unlace should the pillow cover need to be laundered.

The Pillow finishes at approximately 16” x 16” but you could certainly adjust the sizing to go up or down to proportionately smaller or larger squares.

Sewing Tools You Need

Fabric and Other Supplies

  • 1 yard* of 44”+ wide outdoor fabric or similar
    NOTE: We used a full yard because our stripe motif was was quite wide and we wanted a precise fussy cut of all the panels, running in two different directions. The actual cuts are listed below in the Getting Started section. If your fabric is wider, as outdoor fabric often is, and/or if you choose a narrower stripe or a different, more random motif, you may be able to get away with just a half yard.
  • FOURTEEN ¼” eyelets/grommets and appropriate setting tools; we used a Dritz Large Eyelets Kit that comes with setting tools – a kit comes with 12 eyelets so we purchased two kits
  • 1 yard of ” soft twisted rope or similar for the lacing
  • ONE 16” x 16” pillow insert; we recommend an insert designed for outdoor use
  • All-purpose thread to match fabric
  • See-through ruler
  • Fabric pen or pencil
  • Seam gauge
  • Seam ripper
  • Scissors or rotary cutter and mat
  • Iron and ironing board
  • Straight pins
  • Small hammer to set grommets; we recommend a soft leather mallet or a ball peen hammer
  • Heavy metal, stone or wooden block to use as a cutting and hammering surface for the rivets and grommets

Getting Started

  1. Download and print out our Grommet Guide.

    IMPORTANT: This Guide is ONE 8½” x 11″ sheet. You must print the PDF file at 100%. DO NOT SCALE to fit the page. There is a guide rule on the page so you can confirm your final printout is to scale.
  2. The Grommet Guide prints in two sections: Part A and Part B. Cut out each part along the solid line. Butt together the two parts, following the arrows printed on the Guide (do not overlap), and tape to create the full Grommet Guide.
  3. From the main fabric, cut the following:
    ONE 13¼” wide x 17” high rectangle for the left front panel; if using a stripe, it should be running vertically
    ONE 11” wide x 17” high rectangle for the right front panel; if using a stripe, it should be running horizontally
    ONE 17” x 17” square for the back panel; if using a stripe, it should be running horizontally

At Your Sewing Machine & Ironing Board

Create the two front panels

  1. Find the two front fabric panels: the left panel at 13¼” x 17” cut on the vertical and the right panel at 11” x 17” cut on the horizontal.
  2. To keep the facing flat against the pillow insert, neither of the inner edges of what will become the lace up panels are hemmed. Instead, we recommend finishing the inside edge of each panel with an overcast style stitch. We used a standard zig zag finish
  3. Thread the machine with thread to best match the fabric in the top and bobbin and set for your favorite edge finishing stitch.
  4. On the 13¼” x 17” left panel, finish the right raw edge.
  5. On the 11” x 17” right panel, finish the left raw edge.
  6. Set aside the left panel and find the right panel. Place it right side up and flat on your work surface.
  7. Working from the unfinished 17” right raw edge, measure 3½” in and draw a vertical line parallel to the right raw edge, which means the line runs perpendicular to the stripes of the fabric.
  8. Draw a second parallel vertical line 1½” from the first line (or 5” in from the raw edge).

    NOTE: You are working on the right side of your fabric, so – as always – make sure your marking tool is one that will easily wipe away or will vanish with exposure to the air or the heat of an iron.
  9. Fold the panel wrong sides together along the second vertical line. Press well and lightly pin.
  10. Flipped the pressed and pinned panel so the folded edge is to the right and the raw edges are to the left, revealing the remaining drawn line.
  11. Re-set the machine for a slightly lengthened straight stitch.
  12. Topstitch along the drawn line.
  13. Flip the panel again so it is now in its “finished” position with the folded edge facing left and the raw edges facing left.
  14. Flatten the panel, pulling out the left finished side into position and folding down the center “tuck.” The left flat finished side will become the facing and the folded “tuck” will become the grommet panel. Press in this flattened position. The distance from the folded edge of the tuck to the right raw edge should be 5”.
  15. Find the left front panel. Measure 1½” in from right finished side edge and draw a vertical guide line.
  16. Fold back the finished edge along the drawn line and press well.
  17. Lightly pin the fold in place. Using the same slightly lengthened stitch as above, topstitch 1” from the folded edge. You want to be as close to the folded back finished edge as possible to catch and secure the fold.
  18. When both the right and left panels are folded and stitched in position, set them side by side with a ¼” gap between the panels. The width of the combined panels should now be 17”, including the ¼” gap.

Insert the 14 grommets and assemble front to back

  1. Find the assembled Grommet Guide. Punch out or cut out the center of each grommet positioning circle.
  2. Place the Guide in position along the folded edge of the left front panel. Pin in place.
  3. Mark the center of each grommet position with a fabric pen or pencil.
  4. Repeat to pin and mark the positions along the right front panel. Place the two panels side by side to insure the marked positions are directly across from one another from the bottom to the top.
  5. Cut or punch a hole through both layers at each of the 14 marked points.
    NOTE: Remember, on the right front panel, you are inserting the grommets through the tucked fold only, do not cut through to the facing below. As on the left side, you are going through the two layers of the folded fabric.
  6. Find the grommets. Insert the top stud half through the hole from front to back.
  7. Slip the back cap over the stud. You are now working on the back side of the folded fabric. Using the setting post and anvil, seal top to bottom.

    NOTE: If you are brand new to working with grommets/eyelets, check out our full tutorial on metal grommets prior to starting the project.
  8. Repeat to set all 14 grommets, seven on each panel.
  9. Place the left and right panels right side up and side by side on your work surface. Align the two panels with a ¼” gap between the folded edges. With the panels aligned top to bottom, with the grommets parallel with one another top to bottom, and with that ¼” gap consistent top to bottom, pin the panels together across the gap.

    NOTE: We simply pinned the panels in place. For extra security, you could machine baste across the two panels at the top and bottom. Simply stitch across the gap within the ½” seam allowance.
  10. With the front panels secured, find the back panel. Place it in position (remember, our back panel stripes were cut on the horizontal), right sides together with the front panel. Pin together along all four sides.
  11. Using a ½” seam allowance, stitch around all four sides, pivoting at the corners.
  12. Clip the corners and press open the seam allowance.
  13. Because our fabric was prone to raveling, we also finished the seam allowance all around with a standard zig zag. This is optional, but recommended.
  14. Turn the pillow cover right right side out through the front opening. Gently push out the corners so they are nice and sharp. A long knitting needle, chopstick or point turner works well for this. Press flat.
  15. Insert the pillow form through the front opening, fluffing it out into the corners.


  1. Find the length of ” soft cording.
  2. We found it helpful to tightly tape the ends of the cording to make it easier to thread.
  3. Starting at the top and working to the bottom, thread the cording through the eyelets just as if lacing up a shoe.
  4. When finished, you should have three large Xs along the front opening.
  5. Cinch up the cording to return the gap to ¼”.
  6. Knot together the cording tails at the base of the grommets.
  7. Then, make a single knot at the end of each tail. It looks best, if one tail is slightly longer than the other.
  8. Trim away the excess cording about ¾” below the tail knots. Unravel and fluff up the cording below the tail knots.


Project Design: Alicia Thommas
Sample Creation: Debbie Guild

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4 years ago

Nautically nice!  I seriously

Nautically nice!  I seriously love this idea.  My Adirondack chairs need pillows and these are just the ticket!  Clever details make the project stand out from the ordinary, and that’s what creativity is all about!

4 years ago

Love the pillow, grommets

Love the pillow, grommets give the pillow a beautiful finish 

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